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For many historians, the "Great Man" theory--emphasizing the centrality
of powerful leaders in changing history--has (rightly) fallen out of
fashion. Less credit is given to leaders; more attention is paid to the
average person. Concurrently, for many international relations
theorists, the demands of realpolitik and geopolitics are emphasized
while the individual personalities of leaders and the collective
personalities of cultures are de-emphasized. Yet, while the "Great Man"
theory of history is limiting, certain historical events simply cannot
be explained without reference to the passions, motives, and
personalities of individual leaders. Relatedly, though the competitive
desire for resources can explain some wars, the fiercest conflicts are
fought not over tangible goods but over abstract ideals. The Second
Punic War proves both points: Almost entirely on his own, for reasons
related more to culture and ideals than resources, one remarkable
man--Hannibal Barca--triggered the ancient world's deadliest world war.
The next time resentment over an unfair treaty, bitterness, one driven
leader, and clashing ideals would trigger such large-scale conflict
would not occur until the Second World War.